mardi 17 mars 2009

Another unlikely friendship

If Gran Torino was the story of an unlikely friendship between an old racist white man and a young Hmong man in Detroit, The Room of Lost Things is the story of another unlikely friendship. Its funny how often movies I see and books I've just read have similar or related themes.
It’s the story of the irascible Robert Sutton who is retiring after 40 or so years of being in the business of dry cleaning. His advertisement attracts Akeel Khan, a young Pakistani east Londoner who wants to make his mark in the world. Robert trains Akeel in the business and introduces him to the room of lost things where Robert keeps all the secret odds and ends people that leave behind in their pockets. Robert himself is hiding his own big secret. And as they move tentatively towards understanding each other, a curiously moving friendship develops between them. There really is something to be said about letting down one's guard and getting past one's own ingrained prejudices to bridge the gulf that might otherwise be present between two very different people.

Its really nice the way the author interweaves Robert and Akeel’s friendship with snippets of other people’s lives. There is Helen who only wants to be loved but is stuck in a fast going nowhere relationship and then there is Stefan who fears intimacy with a passion. And then there is the “Poet” who peeks into other people’s lives as he travels by bus. I shouldn’t forget to mention that one character which was as vivid if not more so than the others in the book, is the city of London, specifically the area of Loughborough Junction. Often, this area is described as a rather rough neighborhood but while reading this book, one gets an altogether different view. True, it maybe rough and a little shabby but there is a sense of community and the mix of different people make it a lot more interesting than more fashionable or homogenous neighborhoods. At the end of the day these are ordinary people with ordinary stories but they are somehow imbued with a certain grace that makes reading about them as satisfying as a cup of tea on a cold day.

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